For a brief moment Wednesday night, the armor was lifted and, with the right eyes, you could see into Dwyane Wade’s soul — observe the working parts that motivate one of the toughest competitors in professional sports.
“This is my life,” he said. “I am not supposed to be at this podium right now. I’ve always tried to overcome.”
In one form or another, Wade’s life has been about overcoming adversity. So, if you thought for a single second that he was going to sit out a playoff game against his hometown Chicago Bulls, then you haven’t been paying attention for the past 10 years.
“Hopefully, one day when I walk away from this game,” Wade said, “I get the respect that my game deserves, whatever that may be.”
In Wade’s line of work, victory is the currency that pays for respect. And, right now, Wade is rich and Derrick Rose, another proud Chicagoan, well, he’s rich, too, but his team’s season is over.
Enduring distress, defeating adversity, cheating the odds, regaining balance after a hard fall: these are universal experiences that transcend a basketball court. In five games against the Bulls, Wade’s life played out like the character arc of a classic novel.
“It’s a Catch-22,” said LeBron James, most likely unaware that Yossarian definitely would have sat out against the Bulls to preserve his basketball career. “If [Wade] doesn’t play, you guys [media] are like, ‘Why is he not in uniform? It’s a playoff game, why is he not playing?’ If he does play, when he’s not scoring 20 points, it’s, ‘D-Wade shouldn’t be out there.’
“He’s a Hall of Famer. He has two rings. He doesn’t have to prove himself to anyone. No one.”
Oh, but Wade did have something to prove. Always has. Why do you think he wore that Marquette shirt earlier this week during an off-day practice at the University of Illinois at Chicago?
“My journey is, I’ve always had to … I didn’t even get recruited by UIC. Let’s just say that,” Wade said at the time when trying to compare himself and James. “We’re here today, and I didn’t even get recruited by UIC in Chicago. My journey was different, so I’m able to look at things a little different.”
Finding a way
Every hero has a crutch. Every champion knows defeat. Every character has a choice.
“You do one of two things,” Wade said after it was all over. “You either sit out and watch your team play, or you get out there and try to find a way to help your team. There are really no other options. This ain’t the regular season.
“You don’t have time to take 10 games off to try to get back. This is the time of the year when you try to do whatever you can.”
But Wade did have about 10 days off to try and get better.
He had more than a week between the first round and the second to rest, and the soreness did not improve at all. On the eve of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Wade knew the bone bruise in his right knee wasn’t getting any better — that was the bad news.
The good? It couldn’t get any worse.
“I’ve been doing this since the playoffs started,” Wade said before Game 5 when asked about playing through pain. “Some days are better than others. Other days, it’s like that candy bar, Almond Joy.